One firm behind such tools is Elementool, a small company that is a supplier of online project management services. Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, and New York, it is also an experiment in integrating a set of related services on the Web.
Elementool offers software project issue tracking as a service; help desk customer service; project manager time tracking and cost projection, software test case management, file sharing, document creation, and forum generation. The services are integrated on the Elementool site so that information gathered by one tool can be imported into the next.
CEO Yaron Sinai said files may be copied from tool to tool as well as data. "You don't have to manually copy information from the help desk into issue tracking," he said in a recent interview.
The integration platform already works at the developer level; it's less clear that it will work online at the project management level. Microsoft, for example, combines both a set of tools and languages into its Visual Studio .Net platform. It will perform additional tool integration in its Azure cloud. Likewise, Java tools can be built as plug-ins to the open source Eclipse programmer's workbench, which can also accept tools written for other languages. But more and more vendors are trying to generate integration platforms.
"We have seven tools under the same system. You don't need to get each one from a different vendor," Sinai said in a recent interview. He calls Elementool a form of cloud computing in which "integration is the key concept."
Can a Web site platform perform as such an integrating force that its shared tools can substitute for more sophisticated on-premises project management systems? Sinai, naturally, thinks they can. On the other hand, his eight-employee company can only do so much. Sinai himself acknowledges that point and Elementool formed a partnership with the popular online documents firm, Zoho, in order to offer the Elementool Docs service. Docs offers both document creation that is compatible with Microsoft's Word and a spreadsheet, Sinai said.
Information in Docs spreadsheets or documents can be copied or imported into the Issue Tracking and Help Desk services.
"It would have taken us two years of work to develop a documents application ourselves," said Sinai. He said the firm is adding services where it sees customer demand. It added Test Cases and Docs in 2009. In 2010, it plans to add 3-4 more. One of them will be Elementool Meetings, a form of Web conferencing that can make use of output from the other services. A second will be Calendar, which will be integrated with Meetings.
The Elementool Test Cases service has received good reviews for its simplicity of use and strength of its test case repository. But it was criticized recently for not capturing and showing the amount of time a test case takes to run. Elementool services are available to project teams for $30 per month per service; any number of developers and managers may be on the team, said Sinai. Each project, however, must have its own set of subscriptions.